Shouldn’t your interior design career make you feel motivated? Everything’s going well. Great even. Your interior design work allows you to follow your creative passion. You work with a fantastic bunch of people. You even like your boss. Despite all of this, you dread Monday morning.

Just because we think we should feel happy doesn’t mean we are happy. Often the reason for this is a clash between the expectations of others and what is fundamental to us. In this article, I’ll describe how we can discover what really matters to us. And how that knowledge can leave us much more fulfilled.

What Really Matters to Us

We all have driving factors within us, that are fundamental to who we are. Hence, the phrase used by many coaches, ‘Core Values’. These core values are our guiding principles, as interior designers and as individuals. In fact, they influence our choices, our decision-making, often without us noticing. Yet, our core values can often be unknown to us. How can it be that something so fundamental to who we are is hidden from us?

We Tend to Bury Our Core Values

We often bury our core values. Not deliberately, but through our inherent need to be accepted. Consequently, we behave contrary to our true selves. Instead, we aim to meet the expectations of loved ones, our culture, our society, and so on. And conforming to those expectations can mean we convince ourselves we’re content when we’re not. For instance, I must be happy in my job because many interior designers would kill for this opportunity. Moreover, imagine how disappointed Aunt Maud would be if I quit.

Why Our Core Values Matter

To come back to our earlier example, your job ticks all the right boxes. Your interior design career should make you feel motivated. So why do you have these feelings of discontentment? Often, it’s because your job doesn’t align, or could even clash, with your core values.

For example, let’s take two common core values:

 Security: Feeling that everything will be OK can be a very powerful motivating factor. Knowing that we can provide for ourselves and our loved ones, without being a burden to others. Where that need for security comes from, whether from childhood upheaval, a long period of redundancy, is often irrelevant. What matters is that security really, really matters to us

 Freedom: To be able to make our own choices and put them into action without the approval or permission of others. Again, it doesn’t matter where this core value comes from. Whether we’re reacting to a strict upbringing. Or, like Maria von Trapp nee Rainer, we’ve broken away from a previous rigid life. What matters is our need for freedom is fundamental to us. If we value freedom over security, staying in a corporate career might not make us happy. Regardless of how disappointed Aunt Maud will be if we left our ‘perfectly good job’. Put another way, to be fulfilled we may need to compromise security to forge our own path.

How to Discover Your Core Values

Step 1: The Long List

The first indication that we’re not satisfying our true selves is a general feeling of discontentment. For reasons that we can’t quite put our finger on. If this sounds familiar, then maybe it’s time to unearth your core values. Here’s how you can achieve this:

  First, put together a list of possible values. And you’ll need a lot of different phrases. But in true Blue Peter style, here’s one I prepared earlier  https://yourcoachapproach.co.uk/interior-design-business-resources/happy-interior-design-career

  Next, sort out the phrases into 3 groups: ‘Yes’, ‘No’, and ‘Don’t Know’. Ask the question, ‘Is [insert phrase] important to me?’ to determine which group it goes into. Do it quickly, and without thinking about it. That’s to say, on gut instinct.

  Most likely, you’ll end with one big pile, ‘Don’t Know’, and 2 smaller ones. So, repeat the exercise with those phrases in the ‘Don’t Know’ pile. And then repeat again.

  Now group similar meaning phrases in the ‘Yes’ pile together. Based on what the phrases mean to you. For instance, happiness and contentment, or security and certainty. If needs be, use an online thesaurus to help.

  From each group, choose one phrase that in your opinion best represents all the values in that group. Well done! You’ve created your long list. And now, take a break for a day or so.


Step 2: The Ranked Shortlist

After a day or two, you’re ready for the next step:

  First, randomly split your long list into 2 groups, A and B. A should contain 12 phrases from your long list, and B the remainder. The objective now is to reduce B to 0, whilst retaining 12 phrases in A.

  Then select a phrase from B and compare it to the first phrase in A. Ask, ‘Is B more important to me than A?’. Put A aside if the answer is ‘Yes’, and replace it with B. Instead, if the answer is ‘No’, move to the next phrase in group A and repeat. If B is less important than all phrases in A, put B aside.

•  Next, select another phrase from B. And repeat for all phrases in B. Once finished, you have a shortlist.

  Finally, for this part of the exercise, put your shortlist in order, most important (to you!) to least important. Don’t agonise over this. If you can’t decide between 2 phrases, then randomly decide which to place higher in the list.

  Congratulations! You have a ranked shortlist.

Step 3: Test Your Values

The final part of this self-discovery exercise:

•  Memorise the top 4 from your shortlist. During the next week or so, take a few minutes each day to jot down how you behaved with respect to these 4 values. If you’ve acted according to a value, it suggests that value is important to you. That’s to say, a core value. The same is true if you’ve felt conflicted when acting contrary to the value. However, if you behaved contrary to it and didn’t feel conflicted, most likely it isn’t really a core value after all.

  After that, repeat with the next 4 values, and then the next 4. After a few weeks of being mindful of your values and behaviours, you’ll have your starting list of core values. And, if you’ve been honest with yourself, that list will be shorter than 12.

The Next Level of Discovery

Our journey of self-discovery doesn’t have to stop here. Despite this exercise, some of our core values may remain hidden. Or to use another phrase, suppressed. However, to continue along this journey will most likely require a guide.

Hidden values often only reveal themselves when we experience strong emotions: blissful happiness, stress, fear. This is certainly true of my own experience. In my final corporate years, it took the help of another coach to unearth what really mattered to me. My core values. Some of which YourCoachApproach shares as brand values today: Passion, Value, Integrity.

The Key to Motivation is Being True to Your True Self

To summarise, if you’re not content and feel you should be, you might not be living according to your core values. And not feeling motivated by your interior design career is just one example. Similarly, it could apply to your personal life; friends, family, partner. If this sounds like you, then take the first step to discover who you really are. Often, we don’t know ourselves as well as we think.

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